Extraordinary People [LITTLE MAN TATE]

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Published on 25 Oct 1991 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Little Man Tate

Jodie Foster’s highly distinctive directorial debut, scripted by Scott Frank (Dead Again), gives us the year in the life of a boy genius (Adam Hann-Byrd) between his seventh and eighth birthdays. Foster herself plays his devoted working-class mother, and Dianne Wiest plays a child psychologist and former gifted child who fights for control of the little boy. This is largely played for comedy, and is often quite funny, but Foster also shows a great deal of sensitivity depicting the young hero’s social isolation and weighing the respective strengths and limitations of the two women as parental figures. (There’s virtually no father figure in sight, and part of what makes this movie so provocative is its discreet suggestion that one isn’t necessary.) Visually bold and imaginative and wonderfully acted (Foster and Hann-Byrd in particular give fine, expansive performances without a trace of sentimentality), this movie is also graced by a very effective jazz score by Mark Isham that helps counterbalance an overschematic script. Not a total success, but strongly recommended; with Harry Connick Jr., David Pierce, Debi Mazar, and P.J. Ochlan. (Old Orchard, Webster Place, Bricktown Square, Water Tower)

Published on 18 Oct 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Garden

Derek Jarman’s lyrical visionary 1990 moviemade after he tested HIV positive and before he made his highly political version of Marlowe’s Edward IIalternates views of himself sleeping and dreaming and his seaside home and garden with enigmatic and apocalyptic images of the life of Jesus, the state-endorsed persecution of homosexuals (among other horrors of post-Thatcher England), and diverse fancies and fantasies that often combine these themes. Deftly mixing video and film shot with different stocks and in various gauges, this kaleidoscopic reverie also makes room for a mordant restaging of the Think Pink number from Funny Face, many glimpses of children and nature, offscreen recitations of poetry, and such Jarman regulars as actress Tilda Swinton and composer Simon Fisher Turner. For all its virtuosity and beauty (especially apparent in some of the editing patterns), this complex meditation intermittently depends on a fascination with sadomasochism that many viewers won’t share. But even if you find yourselfas I didwaiting out these sequences and bemused by portions of the personal symbolism, you’re likely to be transfixed by much of the rest. (JR)

Published on 01 Oct 1991 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Shattered

Easy to watch, easier still to forget, Wolfgang Petersen’s thriller, which he adapted from Richard Neely’s novel The Plastic Nightmare, starts off with an elaborate car crash that renders the wealthy hero (Tom Berenger) amnesiac. Nursed back to health by his beautiful wife (Greta Scacchi), who survived the same accident unharmed, he begins to uncover disturbing facts about both her and himself. As usually happens with such exercises, this turns out to be very surprising and very implausible in about equal proportions; the settings are in and around San Francisco, but Vertigo this ain’t. Bob Hoskins plays a likable detective and pet shop owner, and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Corbin Bernsen contribute a few smidgens of additional intrigue. (JR)

Published on 01 Oct 1991 in Featured Texts, by admin

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